Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O, For the Love of Audio Book Readers!

There are so many books I want to read, and need to read, that there will never be enough time to sit down with a hard copy of each one and do nothing but read. That's partly why I'm a great fan of audio books. I almost always have one on hand to play while I'm fixing dinner, baking a cake, working out, or doing anything around the house that doesn't require concentrated thought. Audio books are a must for road trips, long and short. And besides enabling me to multitask, audio books, when well narrated, are high quality entertainment.

As the year winds down (or spins up in its final frenzy of activity and celebration), I've taken a look at my reading list from 2010, and thought I'd give a shout out to my favorite audio book readers, sending out a huge thank you for their time and talent and work. Being a writer who reads her own work aloud as part of the editing process, I know how utterly draining it can be to spend hours at it, and I'm not even trying to entertain anyone (except maybe myself... I do try on an accent or two, where applicable).

My favorite audio book readers are, in no particular order (click on their names to hear clips):

John McDonnough, reader of Jan Karon's Mitford Series, for Recorded Books. "When you hear John McDonough’s deep, growly voice, it seems immediately familiar. Listeners are drawn to the rich, warm tones of this veteran actor and singer." ~Recorded Books

Patrick Tull, reader of Ellis Peters' The Brother Cadfael mysteries, Recorded Books. "Just as he became the voices for the O’Brian seafarers.... In the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, Patrick Tull became a medieval herbalist and monk whose retirement was interrupted by perplexing mysteries." ~ Recorded Books

Stephen Thorne, another reader of The Brother Cadfael mysteries, for Mystery Masters. Thorne also voiced Treebeard in the BBC radio drama of The Lord of the Rings.

Barbara Rosenblat, reader of far too many books to list, but at the top of my list: "Ms. Rosenblat has put her unique stamp on several popular series for Recorded Books. Among these are the Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gillman and the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters." ~ Recorded Books

Davina Porter, reader of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. She is the mistress of Scottish accents.

Lisette Lacat, reader of Alexander McCall Smith's The #1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Her voicing of Mma Ramotswe will live forever in my head. I couldn't read one of these books in any other voice.

George Guidall, my introduction to audio books long ago, reader of the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn Navajo Tribal Police mysteries by Tony Hillerman, and countless other titles. "His narrations of everything from classics like Crime and Punishment and The Iliad to best sellers like Snow Falling on Cedars and Lilian Jackson Brauns Cat Who ... series have set a standard for excellence recognized throughout the audiobook industry." ~ Recorded Books

Erik Singer, reader of Jan Karon's Father Tim books (sequels to the Mitford series). There are no audio clips available for Singer at the link, but I can attest the man does wonderfully. Love his Irish accents in "In The Company of Others," Karon's latest. ~ Recorded Books

A shout out to the whole reading cast of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Random House Audio. "With a small cast of gifted narrators including Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerdan, John Lee, Rosalyn Landor and the enjoyable Juliet Mills, this production is first-class from top to bottom. The narrators' British dialects, each quite regional and equally as different as they are ear-pleasing, serve the story well and allow Shaffer's words to leap from the page into the hearts and minds of her listeners. The final result is an almost theatrical experience with a plethora of enthusiastic performances." ~ Publisher's Weekly

And last but not least, a shout out to the reading cast of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (Penguin Audio). Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell. "Four peerless actors render an array of sharply defined black and white characters in the nascent years of the civil rights movement.... The actors handle the narration and dialogue so well that no character is ever stereotyped, the humor is always delightful, and the listener is led through the multilayered stories of maids and mistresses." ~ Publisher's Weekly 

Okay, I've shown you mine. Now it's your turn. Who are your favorite audio books readers? I'm all for expanding my list, so please leave a comment!

Merry Christmas, Love and Blessings to you! 


  1. Oh what fun! I'm afraid I'm no where near as well-versed as you are in the world of audio book readers. My collection of audiobooks is rather random. I LOVE Richard Armitage's reading of Georgette Heyer novels (he's done 3 so far). Really I'm a big fan of Naxos Classic Audiobooks in general. I also enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia radio dramatizations - very faithful to the books, they are truly "movies for your mind"!

  2. Because I've listened to the books so many times, and because he's in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of distinct character voices (over 500) he created for the series, my favorite audiobook reader is Jim Dale, who did the American versions of the Harry Potter books. (He also provided the narration for the short-lived TV series Pushing Daisies.)

    I have a recording of Dracula that Greg Wise read (got that from voice is so smooth and rich (just like that reading he did on that Carte Noir site)---actually, any of those guys that did those readings would have to qualify!

  3. Ruth, I like Richard and I like Georgette, so I've got to find one of those and have a listen. We love the Narnia Chronicles done by Focus on the Family Radio Theater too. Another old favorite from the 1980s I alluded to is the BBC radio drama of The Lord of the Rings, in which Ian Holm does the voice of Frodo (He's Bilbo in the films).

  4. Kaye, I knew I would forget someone. Jim Dale should be on my list. Love his reading of the Harry Potter books. And I've heard (and seen) Greg Wise on the Carte Noir site. They are fascinating to watch, aren't they? Would love to hear him do an entire novel.

  5. Lori, You inspire me to listen!! You are so well read in all ways:) I think I may have to start with Richard reading Georgette...

  6. Laura, I'm not a bit surprise at who you plan to start with. :)

  7. Have you heard Richard Armitage performing - because you really can't call it just reading - Lords of the North? Unlike his Heyer novels, which are gorgeous, it's unabridged. Really, if you haven't, your life is missing something important.

  8. Deborah, now that's what I'm talking about, passion for audio books! I'll be hunting down a copy of Lords of the North, read by RC, asap. Thank you!

  9. And while I'm on the subject of actors and audio books, topping my wish list of actors I'd love to hear read for one of the audio book studios (one of which, Blackstone Audio, is located in the next town over from me), is.... wait for it... I've heard the man do so many accents spot on, he can sing, and his voice performance in Tangled, including the narration, clinched it for me... Zachary Levi. :)

  10. I love Lisette Lacat too.

    I am a PG Wodehouse fan, and Jonathan Cecil will always be the voice of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster for me. He is better than any other reader I've heard at getting across the humour in Wodehouse's books.

  11. Chivers, the PG Wodehouse books are more I left off my list, purely an oversight, because I've enjoyed those too. I didn't remember the name of the reader. Jonathan Cecil, eh? I'll have to have another listen to those.

    And this reminds me, another wonderful reader/performance is Steven Crossley's reading of Connie Willis' TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. If you haven't listened to that one, you will be in for a treat. Time travel: near future, WWII London, and Victorian England. It's like Jane Austen meets Wodehouse meets Scifi lite.

  12. Lori, you really will thank me! And, without sounding like an ad, you'll find it at GoAudio (previously known as BBC Audibooks), nowhere else. I just think the work is brilliant and there are lots and LOTS of others who agree with me. I hope you can find it. It's the Bernard Cornwell novel and part of his Saxon series dealing with Alfred the Great.

  13. Deborah, yeah. My library doesn't have a copy and the only copy I've found so far for sale is way beyond my book buying budget. I'll check GoAudio. I notice it's Book 3 in a series by Cornwell. Does Richard reads the earlier books in the series?